Willow Will Not Let The Past Haunt Me

Early Friday morning last week, I started and finished “To Drink Coffee with a Ghost (Things that Haunt, #2)” by Amanda Lovelace. I think the great thing about most poetry books is that you can start and finish them in one sitting, but they are almost always there to reexplore on your shelf, but I’ve found it’s been hard to check out a lot of poetry from the library that I am attracted to at places like Target and whatnot. Thankfully, in this case, I was able to check this book out from the library, and now I want to own it, possibly the series. 

For those of you who haven’t take the time to read Amanda Lovelace’s poetry, she includes trigger warnings at the beginning of her books. She also insists that you practice self-care before, during, and after reading the book. And typically, I nod to myself because I always practice self-care now more than ever. After all, I have learned the importance of it. Regardless, I think this is great because it should be encouraged more among fellow women. So to me, it’s always nice to see an author take that added attention to detail.

Last night though, I was taken off-guard by the topic. I think because I read “To Make Monsters Out of Girls (Things that Haunt, #1)” and despite knowing by the end of the book received her closure writing about her ex, I expected that from the second too for some reason. I know in her past works she has written about her mother, but I was shocked to realize that most of it were about losing her mother and thought I might not handle this well. But for some reason, I didn’t let that deter me. I found myself reading on, but something strange happened.

Usually, out of my two cats, my male cat is more fascinated by my books. However, last night, Willow marched all over me while I was reading this book. She nuzzled it. Willow nuzzled me. She laid on me and demanded petting in between the various parts of the book. She made me take the time to focus on her as much as I focused on the book. Weirdly, I’ve always felt connected through my mom with her. I think this is because my mom spoke of a calico she had when she was pregnant with me named Sissy. 

I digress for a moment to say I did not go to the shelter looking for a calico when I got Willow. I was hoping for a Siamese cat or a grey tabby. And oddly enough, a grey tabby was in Willow’s cage. Still, she is the one who wormed her way into my heart when I picked her up after hearing, “Oh do you see the little calico cat in the corner?” from another patron that made me take notice almost twelve years ago this December. She curled up against my chest, and I just knew. Then another woman made sure she got adopted out to use that day instead of my dad or me having to wait or return for her.

Guard kitty reporting for emotional support duty!

This cat kept me sane after my mother passed. She gave me love in a time that I needed it the most, and last night was no different, but she did not react that way to the first book. She did not insist I take breaks from it outside of photographing some pages I wanted to keep in mind when writing for my blog about it informally. But the more I read, the more I realized she wasn’t going anywhere. 

In between reading the various sections of the book, she would lay on me too. But not in a way I couldn’t finish reading the book. She laid perfectly on my chest so I could pet her and read. So on top of stopping me between the three parts, she would spend more time loving me and letting me love her. The content made her actions stranger, but it shows that sometimes animals do sense when their humans need them the most, so I wonder if I put something out that I didn’t even realize I put out when reading it. 

Either way, I was grateful for her last night like the many nights before because one of the poems that struck me was the following:

you cannot

have a funeral

for your mother

without also

having a funeral 

for yourself.

-it’s time to begin the procession.

This poem struck such a chord because I think a part of me died when my mother passed. Another poem that touched me was the cracked compass because she was right. We grow up surrounded by these fairytales where the mother dies, sometimes the father too in Cinderella’s case, but we are never taught by these princesses how to navigate that. There is no one way to navigate grief, but sometimes I wish that was the Disney film made in addition to the princess getting her happily ever after. While we at it, it’d be nice if a princess had some junk in the trunk too. 

This was the third time she laid on me.
By that point I was amused.

But when she got to ghost-daughter, I read that poem three times. I read it three times because I understood it SO much. I would buy books after my mom passed, but until I joined my current book club, it was like I gave up everything I truly loved after my mom died. I spoke of it before, but I had never really seen it as becoming a ghost of my former self until reading this poem. That is what occurred, though. I was this shell of who I once was in life. A shell that would have made my mom SO fucking sad. 

The book ends with a beautiful section of having help to get through it all, but more importantly, it reminds people that others have to heal in their way. Even if it makes someone else uncomfortable, you have to do what is best for you on that journey. We have to change our focus because if not, we stay stuck in the past forever, not genuinely moving forward, but repeating the events in our mind that could be changed somehow, someway. 

I think this book came at the right time, with Mother’s Day lurking around the corner. The reminder is a good one, and so much so I will add this to my shelf eventually for re-reads. 

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